By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer
CHECOTAH — More money and more members could help a veterans group save its post as well as the historic building where it meets.
The Paul Henry Carr Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7624 is seeking younger veterans to replenish its dwindling and aging membership.
“I’m one of the younger members, and I’m 69,” said Jimmy Brown, a Vietnam War veteran and the post’s quartermaster.
Brown is one of only three elected officers at the post. Post Commander Don Campbell said posts normally have eight officers — commander, quartermaster, chaplain, senior vice commander, junior vice commander, sergeant at arms and three trustees. He said Checotah also has an elected chaplain and one appointed trustee.
The post, which meets the second Monday of each month, must have at least five members present in order to have a legitimate meeting, Campbell said. The post had only one such meeting in the past year, when 14 members came in November, he said. Five people attended the April 8 meeting, but only four were members, he said. The next meeting will be today.
VFW Post 7624 meets in a historic downtown building that once housed the town’s library, Campbell said. “The Dawes Commission met in a back room,” he said.
The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The VFW post has used the building since it was mustered on Aug. 9, 1985, Campbell said.
The post is able to pay its utility bills, but it faces extensive ceiling repair costs.
Campbell said he would like to get the ceiling and the rest of the building in good repair so it can be used by the community.
If the post does not stay open, the future of the building may be in jeopardy, he said.
He noted, however, that the state VFW office had said it had no plans to close the post.
Oklahoma State Commander Mike Devenitch said he attended the April meeting and discussed the possibility of closure. He said the participants decided on a membership drive.
Devenitch said Checotah’s VFW faces the same problem as other Oklahoma posts — aging members.
“Half of our membership is past the average life expectancy,” he said, adding that the male life expectancy in Oklahoma is 73.9 years.
Five or 10 years ago, Oklahoma had about 200 posts, he said.
“We’re now down to 106,” Devenitch said.
However, some posts, including Eufaula and McAlester, are doing well.
Campbell said the Eufaula post has a bar and regular steak nights.
Devenitch said other VFW posts concentrate on recruiting veterans of recent wars, including the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91 and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
“One thing posts need to do is ban smoking. A lot of younger veterans don’t smoke. A lot of older ones do,” he said. “We also have a group of VFW motorcycle riders.”
He said he was encouraged by the presence of a younger veteran at the April meeting.
Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or email@example.com.
You can help
The Paul Henry Carr Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7624 seeks new members and contributions to help offset ceiling repair costs. Members must have served in active combat during a war. Call Don Campbell at (918) 843-1083.